Justia U.S. 1st Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Family Law
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Petitioners, a group of individuals and advocacy groups, filed a petition challenging the constitutionality of Article 68 of the Civil Code of Puerto Rico and other laws of the Commonwealth that prohibit same-sex couples from marrying. After the lower court dismissed Petitioners’ claims, the United States Supreme Court decided Obergefell v. Hodges. All parties subsequently agreed that the Commonwealth’s ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional. The First Circuit agreed and vacated the judgment. On remand, however, the district court did not enter judgment in favor of Petitioners but, instead, issued a memorandum concluding that the Commonwealth’s ban was not unconstitutional because the “right to same-sex marriage” had not been determined to apply in Puerto Rico. Petitioners requested a writ of mandamus requiring the district court to enter judgment in their favor striking down the ban as unconstitutional. Respondents moved for leave to join in Petitioners’ request. The First Circuit granted Petitioners’ petition for writ of mandamus and Respondents’ motion to join in the petition, holding that the district court erred in ruling that the ban is not unconstitutional and directly contradicted the First Circuit’s mandate and compounded its error by failing to enter a final judgment to enable an appeal in ordinary course. View "In re Conde-Vidal" on Justia Law

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Petitioners, a group of individuals and advocacy groups, filed a petition challenging the constitutionality of Article 68 of the Civil Code of Puerto Rico and other laws of the Commonwealth that prohibit same-sex couples from marrying. After the lower court dismissed Petitioners’ claims, the United States Supreme Court decided Obergefell v. Hodges. All parties subsequently agreed that the Commonwealth’s ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional. The First Circuit agreed and vacated the judgment. On remand, however, the district court did not enter judgment in favor of Petitioners but, instead, issued a memorandum concluding that the Commonwealth’s ban was not unconstitutional because the “right to same-sex marriage” had not been determined to apply in Puerto Rico. Petitioners requested a writ of mandamus requiring the district court to enter judgment in their favor striking down the ban as unconstitutional. Respondents moved for leave to join in Petitioners’ request. The First Circuit granted Petitioners’ petition for writ of mandamus and Respondents’ motion to join in the petition, holding that the district court erred in ruling that the ban is not unconstitutional and directly contradicted the First Circuit’s mandate and compounded its error by failing to enter a final judgment to enable an appeal in ordinary course. View "In re Conde-Vidal" on Justia Law

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This putative class action was brought on behalf of ten foster children in the custody of the Rhode Island Department of Children, Youth and Families (DCYF). The complaint alleged that DCYF’s failings exposed foster children in its custody to an unreasonable risk of harm and that the State had failed to comply in various respects with the Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act. After much skirmishing between the parties and delay during discovery, trial commenced. At that point, the claims of all but two of the named plaintiffs had been rendered moot through aging or adoption. The district court concluded (1) Plaintiffs had presented insufficient evidence to establish that DCYF’s policies and customs had either harmed them or exposed them to an unreasonable risk of harm, and (2) Plaintiffs failed to carry their burden of proof with respect to their statutory causes of action. Plaintiffs appealed, claiming myriad errors relating to pretrial proceedings. The First Circuit vacated the judgment, holding that the district court abused its discretion when it, in two case management orders, denied Plaintiffs’ counsel access to their own clients and prevented Plaintiffs from seeking plainly relevant discovery. View "Danny B. v. Raimondo" on Justia Law

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Father was a citizen of Argentina. Mother was a U.S. citizen and permanent resident of Argentina. While living in Argentina, the parties had a child. After the parties separated, they reached a child custody agreement providing that the child would reside with Mother and Father would have visitation. In 2013, Mother left Argentina with the child and moved to Massachusetts. The relationship between the parties subsequently deteriorated, and in 2014, Father filed this action pursuant to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of Child Abduction, as implemented by the International Child Abduction Remedies Act, to return the child to Argentina. The district court ordered the child’s return on the basis that the child’s habitual residence lay in Argentina because Father never fully agreed to allow the child to move to Massachusetts. The First Circuit reversed, holding (1) the United States was the child’s habitual residence at the time of his removal based on his parents’ mutual and settled agreement to move him there; and (2) Father did not meet his burden to establish a presumption of wrongful removal. View "Mendez v. May" on Justia Law

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Defendants in this case were the Governor of Massachusetts, the Secretary of the Executive Office of Health and Human Services, and the Commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families (DCF). Six children brought this class action in federal court on behalf of an estimated 8,500 children who are (or will be) committed to Massachusetts foster care custody as a result of their having suffered from abuse or neglect. Plaintiffs asserted that DCF so exposes the plaintiff class to harm or the risk of harm that it is unconstitutional and violates the Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act of 1980. Plaintiffs sought a broad injunction preventing Defendants from subjecting the plaintiff children to practices that violate their rights. The district court granted judgment for Defendants on all claims. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that Plaintiffs failed to demonstrate class-wide constitutional violations, nor a violation of the AACWA, and so injunctive relief was not warranted. View "Connor B. v. Patrick" on Justia Law

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Mother and Father had two minor children. The family lived in Canada for approximately three and a half years before Mother relocated the children to the United States, where the entire family had never lived together. Father filed a petition in a federal district court for the return of his children to Canada pursuant to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction and its implementing statute, the International Child Abduction Remedies Act. A federal district court granted Father’s petition, concluding (1) Canada was the children’s country of habitual residence, and they were wrongfully removed for purposes of the Hague Convention; and (2) there was no grave risk that returning the children to Canada would expose them to physical or psychological harm. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that the district court did not err in (1) finding that Canada was the children’s country of habitual residence; and (2) concluding that returning the children to Canada would not involve a grave risk of physical or psychological harm. View "Mauvais v. Herisse" on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law
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On October 27, 2011, the McLaughlin Group brought suit against the United States, the Secretary of Defense, the Attorney General, and the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, challenging the constitutionality of Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) as applied to definitions of marriage in Title 10, Title 32, and Title 38 of the United States Code as they affect same-sex military spouses. The district court stayed the proceedings in light of two similar challenges on appeal before the First Circuit. The First Circuit subsequently held Section 3 of DOMA invalid, and the Supreme Court held Section 3 unconstitutional as a violation of the Fifth Amendment. The district court then resumed proceedings in this case and entered summary judgment in favor of the McLaughlin Group. The McLaughlin Group moved for fees and costs under the Equal Access to Justice Act. The district court denied the motion, concluding that the government’s position was substantially justified. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that the district court correctly found that the position of the United States was substantially justified and thus properly denied fees as a matter of law. View "McLaughlin v. Hagel" on Justia Law

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Mother, a citizen of Colombia who entered the United States illegally, and Father, a naturalized U.S. citizen, married and had a daughter, E.G., born in Massachusetts. When E.G. was two years old Mother and E.G. moved to Columbia, where they lived for two-and-a-half years. E.G. then moved back to the United States to live with Father. When E.G. was five years old, Mother and Father divorced, and Father was granted sole legal and physical custody of E.G. Mother filed a petition pursuant to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, alleging that Father wrongfully retained E.G. in the United States. The district court denied Mother’s petition, concluding that the United States was E.G.’s place of habitual residence, and therefore, E.G.’s retention was not wrongful under the Hague Convention. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that E.G.’s habitual residence was the United States, and therefore, Father did not wrongfully retain her under the Hague Convention. View "Sanchez-Londono v. Gonzalez" on Justia Law

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Mother and Father had two daughters that were born in the United States. When the girls were four months and just over one year old, the family moved to Singapore after Father’s employer temporarily relocated him. The family lived in Singapore for approximately one year and a half, after which time Mother traveled with the girls to the United States and refused to return to Singapore. Father petitioned the federal district court for the return of the children pursuant to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. The district court granted the petition, determining that the children’s place of habitual residence was Singapore, and therefore, Mother’s retention of the children in the United States was wrongful. The First Circuit vacated the judgment of the district court and remanded, holding that the district court erred in its habitual-residence analysis by failing to determine whether the parties intended to abandon their habitual residence in the United States or whether they intended to retain it while living abroad for a temporary period of fixed duration. View "Neergaard v. Neergaard-Colon" on Justia Law

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David Efron and his former wife, Madeleine Candelario-Del-Moral, were engaged in long-running litigation related to their high-stakes divorce. In 2006, a Puerto Rico court in which the divorce proceedings were pending issued an order attaching the funds held in Efron’s UBS Financial Services Inc. accounts. The court subsequently made a ruling that may or may not have vacated the attachment. UBS treated the attachment as void and dispersed the bulk of the funds. Candelario sued UBS in federal district court for negligently releasing the attached funds. Ultimately, at the district court’s suggestion, UBS and Candelario opted to undertake mediation. Thereafter, Efron moved to intervene as of right in the Candelario-UBS litigation. The district court denied the motion. The First Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the denial of the motion and denied Candelario’s motion for appellate sanctions, holding (1) the Court had jurisdiction to hear and determine Efron’s interlocutory appeal; (2) the district court did not abuse its discretion in deeming Efron’s motion to intervene untimely and in refusing to grant it; and (3) although Efron’s case for intervention was weak, it was not frivolous. View "Candelario-Del-Moral v. Efron" on Justia Law